Monday, February 11, 2008

The President: Critics at the Chronicle

Today's San Francisco Chronicle provides an editorial which bounces off of last week's New York Times' editorial concerning evident chaos in the Office of the Pardon Attorney, Department of Justice. The Chronicle says that it "remains unclear" whether the former U.S. Pardon Attorney (Roger Adams) was a "major factor" behind the "meager number of pardons issued by Bush," but condemns the President:

who has shown no interest in freeing offenders convicted of often draconian federal mandatory-minimum sentences - unless the offender is the convicted lying and justice-obstructing former White House aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The editorial does not go on to explain just how the level of the President's personal interest has been ascertained, but then goes from bad to worse:

It's true that Bill Clinton tarnished the pardon process by issuing 140 last-minute pardons without proper review - to such unworthies as billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, who was hiding in Switzerland following a 51-count, 1983 indictment for tax evasion, racketeering and illegal trading. Bush has erred in freeing few prisoners despite the record number of felons in federal prison.

Marc Rich? Are you kidding me? You are writing an editorial on the pardon power, non-violent drug offenders and the Clinton administration and you mention Marc Rich?

Why not mention that fact that Clinton - like Bush - also "freed few prisoners despite the record number of felons in federal prison" (see this CJCJ article on Clinton's "prison legacy") and - even worse - pardoned his own half-brother (Roger Clinton), who was convicted on drug related charges?!

Why not mention Carlos Vignali? Indeed, let's go back to 2001 where Salon.com provided these insights:

[P]resident Clinton told Rolling Stone magazine that many drug sentences are too long and that U.S. policy needs to be reexamined ... Drug reform groups made a frantic stampede to submit to the president the names of hundreds of petty drug dealers serving long stretches in federal prisons under crushing mandatory-minimum drug sentences. Those sentences were set in granite by Congress a decade ago and judges have no control over them; only a presidential pardon can undo them. Clinton denied nearly all the requests for clemency. One of the few he didn't deny was the request to release one Carlos Vignali [the] kingpin in a lucrative drug ring that shipped hundreds of pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles to Minnesota ... It was more than luck or Clinton compassion that sprung Vignali after he had served six years. His rich daddy, an Argentinian immigrant named Horacio Vignali, dumped tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of some of California's top politicians. Two of them -- the former speaker of the California assembly, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Rep. Xavier Becerra -- are leading contenders in Los Angeles' upcoming mayoral election. Both wrote letters and made phone calls asking the White House to consider clemency for Vignali.

Of course, Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, accepted a fee to lobby on behalf of Vignali ... but, what is worse? Bill Clinton publicly asserting these supposed beliefs about the severity of federal sentencing and then doing nothing about it? Or, President Bush not doing as much as the Chronicle would have him do? Finally, the Chronicle, while oddly obssessing with Marc Rich, dropped this anecdote:

Serena Nunn can show the way. At age 19, Nunn drove her drug dealer boyfriend as
he plied his sorry trade - for which she was sentenced to 15 years in prison. President Clinton commuted her sentence in July 2000, after a prosecutor and judge supported Nunn's petition. Now Nunn is a law school graduate. "I had the opportunity to redeem myself," Nunn told the House Judiciary Committee last year, but hundreds of other Americans are serving excessive sentences for low-level crimes. The mercy that freed Libby is beyond their reach, and that is wrong.

Yes, indeed. The mercy that freed Roger Clinton (who will forever and always represent a more intelligent point of comparison for Ms. Nunn than Scooter Libby) was beyond her reach as well. If it had not been, Ms. Nunn would have been released eight long years ago! Shame on Mr. Clinton. Shame on Mr. Clinton's brother. Shame on Hillary Clinton's brother. Thank goodness Mrs. Clinton was completely unaware of everything all the while!

Meanwhile, just forget about Marc Rich, Chronicle. He was nothing! See the full editorial here.

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